Systematic Rape on an Unprecedented Scale

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If you haven't already read it, you have to read this horrifying article in the NY Times on the brutal, vicious rapes being perpetrated in the Congo. Watch the video that accompanies the article as well. As both the article and the video state, "While rape has always been a weapon of war, researchers say they fear that Congo’s problem has metastasized into a wider social phenomenon," and sexual assault is being used to terrorize on an scale and with a viciousness that are unprecedented.

I'm currently working on a paper about trauma and religion, so I've been reading analyses of trauma. One text I'm reading argues that

to be called traumatic--to produce what are seen as symptoms of trauma--an event has to be more than just a situation of utter powerlessness. In an important sense, it has to entail something else. It has to involve a betrayal of trust as well. There is an extreme menace, but what is special is where the threat of violence comes from. What we call trauma takes place when the very powers that we are convinced will protect us and give us security become our tormentors, when the community of which we consider ourselves members turn against us or when our family is no longer a source of refuge but a site of danger.

I would say that applies to the family of humanity, not just one's immediate family. You just don't expect another human being to tie you to a tree for four months and gang rape you every day. You don't expect another human being to shove a block of splintery wood so far up you that your reproductive and digestive organs are beyond repair. And you sure as hell don't expect them to do it to you just because you're female. But that's why this is happening. And while violence against women this vicious, this brutal, is not wide-spread in the US, it is by no means unknown or uncommon--just watch any crime show and see how many of the crimes depicted involve the sexual torture and intentional degradation of women.

2 Comments

I think in some parts of the world the expectation that people would do horrific things to you because you are female is the norm, rather than the exception.
Uncovering and highlighting the brutality in the Congo is no different than knowing about the rape of German women by Russian (and probably British and American soldiers) after Berlin fell, African militiamen have no monopoly on brutality. Maybe, the unprecedented aspect, perhaps, is that we hear about it in real time, rather than years afterward? I learned about how sex is used as a weapon, personally, at the age of seventeen whilst being given a ride home from a party. Rather than being angry at the boy, I still smack my forehead for being stupid enough to accept a ride with a friend - how ridiculous is that?
One in three females/women will be subject to some sort of sexual assault or rape is the statistic that was bandied about in the early 90's. I'm inclined to believe that statistic is probably representative of most females'(women's) experiences in all parts of the world. What we suppress, how we are affected, and the anger and shame and rage that lives on is usually far more damaging than the violent act itself.
Thanks for writing on what is, still, a topic that affects all females/women.

This is so disturbing and frightening. I feel so much for those women in the Congo. Imagine being a young girl, a woman, or a mother there. Scary, scary stuff.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on October 7, 2007 10:26 AM.

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